A Tale of Two Cities | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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A Tale of Two Cities | Book 3, Chapter 8 : A Hand at Cards | Summary

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Summary

Miss Pross and Jerry Cruncher are doing the shopping, and Miss Pross finally finds a wine shop that is somewhat safer than others. She and Jerry go inside, and while they're waiting for their order to be filled, Miss Pross comes face to face with a man on his way out the door. She screams, claps her hands, and addresses the man as Solomon. The man shushes her, saying not to call him that or she will "be the death of me." Solomon tells her to come outside if she wants to talk to him and to have Jerry come out, too. He asks if Jerry has seen a ghost. Jerry certainly looks as if he has but doesn't answer.

Once they are outside and away from the shop, Solomon asks Miss Pross what she wants, and she gets upset, calling him cruel for not even greeting his sister. For this man is Solomon Pross, her long-lost brother. Solomon, however, has no interest in seeing Miss Pross. Jerry, who is confused, asks Solomon if his name is Solomon John, or John Solomon, and his name surely wasn't Pross back in England. Jerry remembers that he "was a spy-witness at the Bailey." A voice from behind Jerry supplies the name: "Barsad." It's Sydney Carton, who has been waiting, under the care of Lorry, to step in when he is needed. Carton says he needs to have a chat with Miss Pross's brother, whom he calls a "Sheep of the Prisons," meaning he is a spy for the jailers. Carton tells him he saw Barsad come out of the Conciergerie and followed him here, where he listened in on Barsad's conversation. Carton suggests Barsad follow him to Tellson's Bank, where he has a proposal he would like to make.

On the way, they leave Miss Pross at her door, and Jerry goes on with the men to Tellson's, where Carton introduces Barsad as Miss Pross's brother, and Lorry recognizes him from Charles Darnay's trial at the Old Bailey. Carton says he has discovered from Barsad that Darnay has been arrested, and Carton finds it alarming that Dr. Manette could not prevent it. Also, because Dr. Manette is now linked with Darnay, his life may be in danger, too. Carton says, "Let the Doctor play the winning game; I will play the losing one ... Anyone carried home by the people to-day, may be condemned to-morrow."

Carton then sets about blackmailing Barsad into helping him. He says he knows not only that Barsad was once an English spy, but that he is "still in the pay of the aristocratic English government, is the spy of Pitt, the treacherous foe of the Republic." When Barsad is not convinced, Carton tells him that he saw him meeting Roger Cly, the other spy from the Old Bailey. Smiling, Barsad produces Cly's burial certificate. Now Jerry steps in and asks Barsad if he put Cly in his coffin. Barsad replies that he did, and Jerry asks, "Who took him out of it?" He says he and two others know there were paving stones in the coffin and, angry again that he was cheated out of his pay that night, Jerry says he'd be glad to denounce Barsad himself. Barsad gives up, and asks Carton what he wants. Barsad confirms that he can enter and leave the Conciergerie at will, and Carton takes Barsad into another room to speak privately.

Analysis

Dickens has finally revealed the identity of Lorry's mysterious visitor; it's Sydney Carton. Now that Charles Darnay has been rearrested, perhaps Carton, who is so committed to ensuring Lucie's happiness, can apply his formidable intellect to an effective fallback plan.

This chapter is full of "aha" moments for readers. Dickens has masterfully tied together a number of threads. First, he connects John Barsad to Miss Pross, as her long-lost brother who once took all her money and made off with it. Barsad is every bit the scoundrel Stryver accused him of being back in London. Dickens also ties Barsad to Charles Darnay's trial at the Old Bailey and, by extension to Roger Cly. Jerry Cruncher also recognizes Barsad from Darnay's trial, having been the messenger who was hired by Jarvis Lorry to report the trial result to the bank. Sydney Carton also recognizes Cly when he sees him with Barsad in the wine shop where Miss Pross recognized Barsad as her brother. Finally, Dickens connects both Barsad and Cly to Jerry's illegal grave-digging business. Because Jerry saw Cly's fake funeral and subsequently tried to dig up his body, he knows that there was no body in the casket. The reader isn't told this in the chapter where Jerry digs up the body, which is a classic Dickens technique: revealing a crucial detail near the end of a novel in order to tie subplots together.

Dickens also reveals Barsad's complete web of duplicity: a web that spans two countries and three governments. Carton says that he is willing to lose the bigger game, but Dickens doesn't reveal how this will happen or what the bigger game is. In having Carton speak privately with Barsad but not revealing what they say to each other, he draws out the suspense so that the reader is intrigued enough to want to read the next chapter.

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